High levels of awesome in scientific papers

I’ve had a hard time getting new blog posts written over the last month. After spending so much time in the field over the summer, I’m now mostly sitting in front of the computer writing exhibit text, trying to get ready for the upcoming GSA and SVP conferences, preparing lectures and field trips, and working on four different manuscripts.

One of the necessities of working on manuscripts is doing background research. It can be a bit tiring spending hours reading dry scientific papers, but every now and then you find some papers that have high levels of awesomeness. Here are some examples I’ve come across this week while doing background research on one of my papers:

Graham, M. S. and P. R. Dow, 1990. Dental care for a captive killer whale, Orcinus orca. Zoo Biology 9:325-330.

This paper discusses a captive killer whale that had worn its teeth down by chewing on concrete structures in its tank, until the pulp cavities were exposed, which then filled with food and became infected. From page 329:

“Remedying this condition was straightforward. With the whale at the edge of the pool with its mouth open the blockage was easily removed. Rapid remission of the physical health problems were apparent by establishing drainage via the gingival sulcus, and by cleaning the orifice in the worn crown of the tooth with a large-scale toothbrush, creating free passage for the exudate. The process took only a few minutes to do a thorough job, required little or no staff training, and was completely effective.”

Unfortunately, they did not include a photo of the “large-scale toothbrush”.

A second example:

Dicken, M. L., 2008. First observations of young of the year and juvenile great white sharks (Carcharodon carcharias) scavenging from a whale carcass. Marine and Freshwater Research 59:596-602.

In this paper a dead humpback whale was anchored to the seafloor so it wouldn’t drift, and each day the author took an inflatable boat out to the whale and made observations on the sharks scavenging on the whale’s carcass. In the section below from page 598, “bouts’ refers to feeding bouts by sharks, and WS3 is a 2.5 m great white shark:

“After 1330 hours, only a single bout was observed at 1440 hours and the sharks exhibited a greater interest in our boat than the carcass. WS3 bumped the motors and bit the propellers on several occasions. This shark in particular regularly approached the boat and on two occasions raised the anterior portion of its body above the water with an open mouth to bite the pontoons, resulting in extensive punctures. Continued aggression and pontoon damage forced us to cease observations at 1605 hours.”

Who said science is dull?


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1 Response to High levels of awesome in scientific papers

  1. accpaleo says:

    “Who said science is dull?”
    I think the Myth Busters dispelled that notion long ago. Nonetheless, interesting stuff you’ve managed to find there.

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